Tips to stay focused at end of year

Christmas is a magical time of year, but it can be pretty hectic too, writes Moira Dunne.

As the year draws to a close, there are many competing demands on our time between business and personal commitments. And we often forget that December is only a 3-week month – at best! Pushing ourselves to get things finished before the year end, we can get overwhelmed and stressed. And that To Do list keeps growing!

So, it is important to take control and make the most of your time. It is also important to help others in your business prioritise their work, giving them permission to focus on the most important things.

“Block time in your diary at the start of each week for priority work. And then, stick to the plan”

Here are 3 simple tips to help achieve this:

  1. Set Priorities 

When you don’t have time for everything, you have to prioritise.  There may be lots of things you would like to do but what are the key things you need to deliver? It can help to divide the long list of tasks into 3 buckets based on the importance to the business:

  1. Must Do – Business Critical Work
  2. Should Do – Not Critical
  3. Could Do – Nice to Have

In December, decide to focus on those ‘Must Do’ tasks. Then day-to-day, when lots of requests are coming in, you don’t have to stop and make decisions. These tasks take priority – you have already decided and agreed with your team.

Identify which tasks in your business fall into this category and make sure everyone is clear.

  1. Protect Your Time for Priority Work

December is a unique month, and the time disappears very easily. It is also very easy to get distracted. Your time is precious, and you need to protect it for the ‘Must Do’ work. Because if you don’t, lots of other things will steal it away.

Block time in your diary at the start of each week for priority work. And then, stick to the plan. Don’t give this time away easily as other things crop up. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Keep meeting time short (45 minutes max)
  • Decline non-essential meetings!
  • Say No to lower priority work

Saying no is one of the hardest skills in business. But it can be the right decision if the request is a lower priority than your planned work.

Explain why you are saying no and suggest an alternative time or solution.  There is pressure to “do everything before Christmas” so start asking if some things can be moved to January. This protects time but also helps to make plans for January.

  1. Plan January 2024 before You Finish

In January, it can be hard to tune back in after the extended break. If we have successfully switched off over the holiday, all those business details can be a little vague.

That’s why it is a productive move to do some planning before you tune out in December, while everything is still fresh in your mind. On your last working day capture everything and plan out the first working week in January.

This has two benefits:

  1. It helps you switch off, relax and refresh over Christmas
  2. It helps you hit the ground running in January

So, in summary, a focused December can lead to a restful holiday period and a productive start to 2024. Enjoy your break, you have earned it!

Moira Dunne
Productivity consultant Moira Dunne is founder and director of